Judoka Telma Monteiro will appear at the London 2012 opening ceremony as Portugal’s flag-bearer today at 9pm, followed by the 75 Portuguese athletes who will compete in the games, one hundred years after Portugal’s first participation in the Olympics.
Four gold, seven silver and eleven bronze medals later, Portugal is now heading to the London 2012 Olympics - beginning on 27 July – with 75 athletes, leaving some of its best athletes, including Francis Obikwelu and Nelson Évora at home.
This year, the triple jump Olympic champion will not be able to attend the Olympics in July due to injuries. Staying in Portugal with him are the injured Naide Gomes, Francis Obikwelu and Rui Silva, the latter two having won silver and bronze respectively in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Vanessa Fernandes, who represented Portugal in the women’s triathlon and won silver at the last Olympics in Beijing, will not be going to London either.
This is a significant loss for Portugal’s “Missão Olímpica” (Olympic Mission) who say the participation of the missing athletes was fundamental due to their experience and competitive value.
Even though some of Portugal’s most acclaimed athletes were thus unable to make it to London, the Portuguese team includes athletes who have recently won medals in various competitions, thus increasing the likelihood of positive results for Portugal.
At the 2012 European Athletics Championships held in Helsinki in June Dulce Félix (see photo) won a gold medal after finishing first in the 10,000 metres race, Patrícia Mamona won silver for the triple jump and Sara Moreira won bronze after finishing third in the 5,000 metres race.
Judoka Telma Monteiro will also be competing at the Olympics and has been named as the team’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony. Monteiro is currently Europe’s female Judo champion having won the gold medal at the European Championships held in Russia this year, and is second in the world ranking list.
The chief of the “Missão Olímpica Portuguesa” (Portuguese Olympic Mission) Mário Santos believes these recent results provide some hope for Portugal, but remains wary.
We do not delude ourselves with constant good results, but that cannot be compared with an Olympic performance. Fortunately our athletes and leaders are aware of the relativity of these sporting results. These competitions are part of the preparation,” said Mário Santos according to sports website Mais Futebol.
As for the current games, Mário Santos stressed that “it should be noted that Portugal still manages to have so many top athletes”. “More and more countries are improving and excellence is increasingly global,” he told Mais Futebol.
One hundred year history
Portugal’s first appearance at the Olympic Games dates back to 1912, but it was only twelve years later at the 1924 Paris Olympics that the country won its first medal: bronze in an equestrian jumping competition.
The Portuguese team had to wait until 1948 to win their first silver medal in a sailing competition, and finally 72 years after their very first Olympics appearance, the country won a gold medal. Carlos Lopes finished first in the men’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and was followed by Rosa Mota who finished first in the women’s marathon at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Portugal’s other two gold medals were also won in athletics – the country’s strongest discipline – first in 1996 by Fernanda Ribeiro (see photo) winning the gold medal for the women’s 10,000 metres race, and then in the last Olympic Games in Beijing by Nelson Évora, (see photo) the triple jump Olympic champion.
At this year‘s Olympics, despite having to make do without some of its best athletes, the Portuguese team will compete in 13 disciplines: athletics, badminton, canoeing, cycling, equestrianism, gymnastics, judo, swimming, rowing, table tennis, shooting, triathlon and sailing.
Unlike at the Beijing Olympics, Portugal will not be represented in taekwondo or fencing.
The opening ceremony will begin in less than 10 hours. The secretiveness surrounding the London 2012 opening ceremony has led many people to anticipate the event. So far, it is known as the “Isles of Wonder” and the set will include fields, rivers and meadows, families, sports, farmers and real animals such as horses, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, and sheep. The aim is to provide a real sense of tradition and reflect how the people of the United Kingdom see themselves as a nation, according to the London 2012 website.